How often do we put thought into what we throw 'away'? Rarely, I'd say. We don't even realise how often our dustbins get filled up and thrown. On average, it happens at least once a week. And I am taking into account only Dry Waste here. Wet Waste is an entirely different ball game and I'll talk about it another day.
Please NOTE: This Waste Auditing process was done over 4 years ago. We have shifted houses since then and our way of consumption has also been different. But this was my starting point and I'll mention the current usage alongside. I wasn't a vegan back then and hence a lot of my dietary choices have changed since.
When I started to transition from my wasteful lifestyle to a zero-waste lifestyle, I was under no assumption that I would get to 'ZERO WASTE' ever. I knew it just wasn't possible for me. I wasn't trying to come under the 'Mason Jar' category either. That was also impossible for me.
But I knew that I needed to track the amount of waste that I was producing and therefore reduce them further, in time. Thus, I tried out Waste Auditing.
Check out this VIDEO of mine to see all the waste that I've collected for 3 months. It also shows you how you can do the Trash Auditing for yourself too- the various steps to doing it.
Let me be super honest with you. There were a couple of items that my house help accidentally threw away or friends didn't keep in the segregated pile and hence did not end up in my trash auditing.
Also, I could not show beer bottles and cans in my video because of personal reasons. Over a dozen of them remained during the Waste Audit. I didn't show it in the video though.
I had been having a LOT of hair loss also, during this period. But I didn't show it in the video as it wasn't hygienic to keep it collected for over 3 months, in a pile. The video shows the rest of the trash collected.
What Is Trash Auditing?
Analysing the amount of trash produced by you as an individual, family or even an organisation, over a set period of time. If I ask you a simple question- 'What's In Your Trash Now?', will you be able to answer? I think not. And I don't blame you. Most of us cannot. We don't put too much thought into it because of conditioning. Buy - Use - Throw.
That is the vicious cycle that we've learnt to live with - the cycle that we may need to break to make substantial changes.
We would be shocked when we analyse the trash that enters our homes on a daily basis. The earlier asked question can be answered by taking part in a Waste Audit.
It shows us the different products that enter our lives and become trash that is generated by us. It shows us the way to find solutions for it.
How Do You Do It?
DECIDE YOUR TIME PERIOD - How long do you need to see a clear picture of your waste production? How long can you keep it all without having to throw it out? A week? Two weeks? A month? Three months? It completely depends on the space you have at home and your comfort about keeping it for long. Keep it for as long as it is possible for you, without feeling intimidated about it.
SEGREGATE AT COLLECTION - Try segregating the items when you are collecting them. So have different piles for Recyclables, Paper, Plastic, Electrical, Biohazard, Wet Waste, Metal, Glass and so on. This helps each member of your family to understand where they would need to keep any trash.
CHOOSE YOUR METRICS - Decide how you want to measure your trash. Do you want to do it by weight? The few different metrics you can use are Number-wise, Weight by category, Room-wise, Usage-wise or even Person-wise. It completely depends on what is best for you to keep it together to analyse.
ANALYSE- This is the most exciting part. For this step, you may need an open space in your house where each item can be stacked up on the floor. You get to touch and hold each piece of trash that has entered your house and keep it in different piles on the floor based on your decided metrics. This is the part where you open your eyes to the massive amount of trash that's piling up on your floor.
If you follow these set of steps, you will be able to easily do some kick-ass Trash Auditing at your own home. Your future purchases will be much more mindful than ever before.
So What Did Our Trash Audit Say About Us?
Our total weight was around 4.5kg(not including the glass bottles and cans I mentioned previously) out of which 3kg was stuff that could be composted or recycled. So around 1.5kg of unrecyclable Trash in THREE MONTHS! This trash was contributed by me, my husband Sooraj and our friends who had stayed over at our place multiple times. What I learnt about us from this Trash Audit was that:
Sooraj and I love milk and cannot do without it.
Sooraj orders Pizza or wraps in paper packaging to avoid other kinds of plastic packaging. (I do NOT order food from outside at all. (NOW: We do order food once in a while. And I mostly choose cafes with sustainable packaging that can be composted)
Sooraj gets a lot of bakery items in paper bags.
We love our whole wheat bread quite a lot.
I bought cut veggies in plastic packaging.
We are finishing up our pre-owned skincare and haircare products.
We have been leaning towards eco-friendly products.
Both Sooraj and I have bought tea time biscuits in small packaging a few times.
Our daily staple groceries come in plastic packets and we've needed a lot of it.
We still get a lot of receipts and order detail papers.
We have reduced Amazon ordering a lot.
What Are The Solutions?
Alright. So that's what I found out. But what are the solutions for these pointers? Okay! Here Goes:
For Milk: I've enquired with my house help and found out about a milkman nearby who delivers to houses in his own can. So we can directly take the milk in our own containers. (NOW: Today, I'm a vegan so we buy two types of milk in cartons which was an insane amount. But it's now getting reduced slowly but surely to 1 carton staying for almost a week, for each of us.)
Pizzas and Wraps: Since we realised that Pizza boxes though made of cardboard don't get recycled, because of the grease, we've been mindful and buy it less often and try to compost it when we do. (NOW: we still buy Pizzas rarely and mostly only when friends come over.)
Bakery Items: Sooraj has started taking containers in his office bag so that he can use those to carry any bakery items that he might feel like buying on the way back home. (NOW: Anything we get from bakeries, which is rare, is in our own containers and one's displayed at the bakery and not packaged options.)
Whole Wheat Bread: We talked to a nearby bakery about receiving their bread package free and they've been kind enough to be okay about it. We need to give them a call at around 4.30 in the evening if we need it at 6 pm or so. We can get the bread in our own packet. (NOW: We still buy packaged bread since we don't have a local bakery nearby but (NOW: We still do.) e to get back to baking it again.)
Cut Veggies: I stopped buying them in a cut form. Decided it was way too much packaging for a few extra minutes of cutting. (NOW: Never in the past 3 years have we purchased any cut vegetables. Too much waste for the time it saved.)
Skincare & Haircare Products: I will be buying skincare and haircare from sustainable brands only so that the packaging can either be returned, reused or composted. (NOW: I still only buy from Zero-waste brands.)
Snacks: We have reduced the amount of plastic-covered snacks. I decided to try baking more cookies and muffins for tea-time snacks. (NOW: Our purchase of Marie biscuits has gone high, for Sooraj and Shadow as I'm a vegan. We are trying to reduce the consumption of it. MY cookie baking hasn't happened much in the last 2 years.)
Groceries: I've been purchasing my groceries and vegetables either from a local organic store or from EcoSansar (a zero waste shop) and hence have been getting mostly all groceries in cloth bags and sacks which can be emptied into our own containers at home and returned to them. (NOW: Unfortunately EcoSansar isn't operational anymore and hence I have been relying on Adrish Zero Waste while still hoping that EcoSansar opens up someday again.)
Receipts: We tell restaurants or supermarkets not to give the customer-copy of the receipts. (NOW: We're trying to get them to not give Bills either whenever possible.)
Amazon Purchases: I only buy from Amazon if I cannot find it locally or second-hand. And I've requested them to send my products with reduced packaging. (NOW: Still continues to use Amazon mainly for secondhand items and for items that aren't available locally.)
So that's the result of doing this Trash Auditing. If I hadn't done one for us, I may not have figured out these solutions by now. It may have taken me much longer. I feel highly accomplished and happy doing this.
What did you learn from this?
Are you willing to try this out at your own home? Or have you already tried it out? If you have, make sure to let me know what you learnt from it, in the comments below. Or tag me when you post about it on social media.
Learn About The Six Ways To Start Your Zero Waste Lifestyle Here!